Posted: Jan 29, 2013 8:31 AM by Marnee Banks
HELENA - The Montana Legislature on Monday discussed a bill that blends the needs of the university system with the needs of the construction industry, containing millions of dollars in state spending for nine construction projects across Montana.
Seven of the nine projects are buildings on a college or university campus, one is a Montana Highway Patrol building, and the last is the state's historical museum.
House Bill 14 authorizes the state to sell $98 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the projects. The bonds would be 20 year notes at an interest rate between 2.5% and 3.0%.
It's not the first time the Montana Legislature has heard this bill. In the 2011 session the bonding bill failed to get enough votes to pass.
Governor Steve Bullock's deputy chief of staff Ali Bovingdon says this session the bonding bill is the governor's J.O.B.S. bill, which is an acronym for Jobs and Opportunity by Building Schools.
"The J.O.B.S. bill takes advantage of historically low interest rates, it will create thousands of good paying jobs across Montana, and it will help our educational institutions train the quality workforce that will encourage businesses to invest in Montana," Bovingdon testified in a budget hearing.
The governor's office is proposing to match the state's money with private donations to help complete the projects.
Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian says the University System is a strong supporter of the bill and Montana's colleges and universities are in need of some critical infrastructure projects.
"The focus of this is for the Montana University System is the education impacts that these facilities would create on a conducive teaching and learning environment," Christian says. "It also really helps address what we really believe are some deferred maintenance issues."
Representative Galen Hollenbaugh (D-Helena) is carrying the bill and says the construction projects will not only provide a better learning environment for college students but it will also put Montanans to work in the construction industry.
"Where are you going to get these people that are going to build these projects?" Hollenbaugh asked lawmakers. "They come from our education system."
While there were no opponents to the entire bill there were some who spoke against specific proposals, and some Republicans have been vocal about borrowing money when they believe the state should be paying cash.
Here is a list of all nine construction projects:
1. MSU-Bozeman Romney Hall renovation
2. MSU-Billings Science and Instructional Tech addition
3. MSU-Great Falls roof replacement
4. MSU-Northern Havre Automotive Technology Center
5. UM-Missoula College
6. UM-Western Dillon Main Hall renovation
7. UM-Montana Tech Butte Natural Resource Research Center addition
8. Montana Heritage Center Helena
9. Montana Department of Justice Center Butte
Reporter's Note: Since this bill requires the Legislature to go into debt it requires a two-thirds majority in each house to pass.